Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Volunteer Engagement and Long Tail Theory at the Smithsonian

Christine Rosenfeld, an intern at the Smithsonian’s Digital Services Division has been analyzing the behaviors of “Volunpeers”, volunteers who digitize handwritten historical records within the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center. The work is detail oriented, and perhaps tedious for some, but indispensable to Smithsonian.

Rosenfeld’s project is a great arts related example of the “long tail” economic theory Clay Shirky discussed in his TED talk. A few very active Volunpeers, called Power Volunpeers, produce most of the transcriptions. Others, who don’t contribute as often, but still participate, foster a more robust, stable system. During push campaigns for higher productivity, overall participation soars for all parties. With a vast collection of archives, every transcription is a valuable contribution, and every bit of effort helps!


One comment on “Volunteer Engagement and Long Tail Theory at the Smithsonian

  1. benjamendouglas
    September 15, 2014

    So cool!

    I knew Google was doing this with reCAPTCHA, but love that the Smithsonian is doing it too!

    I found this in another article: “In just the first year after launching reCAPTCHA, humans correctly deciphered and transcribed more than 440 million words, roughly the equivalent of 17,600 books.”

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